By MILLIE HAMNER
I approached the 2013 legislative session as a member of the majority in the same way that I have in my previous sessions as a member of the minority — dedicated to passing good legislation, working across the aisle and representing my constituents on the Western Slope. Looking back on the 2013 session, I think my record shows I did just that.
I passed 17 bills this year that were signed into law. Of those, 16 had bipartisan support and most had Republican cosponsorship.
Most of the work I did this year — as your state representative and as chairwoman of the House Education Committee — addressed our education system. I worked on important reforms to improve accountability and restructure our school finance system.I sponsored a bill to streamline our childhood development programs, putting them under one umbrella and cutting down on administrative and government waste. I sponsored legislation to improve educator evaluation systems, making them more effective, and I sponsored a bill to authorize Red Rocks Community College to confer graduate degrees in physician assistant studies.
I carried the annual School Finance Act to fund our schools. This passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. I also had the pleasure of working with Sen. Michael Johnston, a true reformer, on the Future School Finance Act. We know our education system has been underfunded for some time. What this bill will do is update the formula that determines educational funding, implement important accountability measures and bring our school funding into the 21st century. All of this hinges upon a vote of the people for an increase in educational funding. This bill provides the map for what we will do with that funding if approved by voters.
When I traveled the district on the campaign trail, I focused my remarks on three key areas: education, economy and environment. In addition to my work in the education field, great things were accomplished this year in regard to the economy and the environment.
As a Western Slope legislator, I understand the importance of a healthy environment for our economies. We are surrounded by great natural beauty, and I continued my work to ensure we remain that way.
I sponsored an extension to the Habitat Stamp Program, which provides the bulk of funding for the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Department's Habitat Protection Program. This is one of Colorado's most important conservation programs. Especially on the Western Slope, we understand how crucial it is to keep our land healthy, protect our habitat and continue to encourage agricultural production and recreational benefits.
One bill critically important to our area that I sponsored with Republican Rep. Ray Scott protects the I-70 corridor by providing funding for the installation of a fire suppression system in the Eisenhower and Johnson tunnels. A serious fire in one of these tunnels would not only be a grave threat to human life, but would also have serious consequences for the economies of the Western Slope and mountain communities.
I also worked to include coal methane in our renewable energy standard for the rural renewable energy bill. This will create jobs and reduce the impact of a significant greenhouse gas toxin.
Sen. Gail Schwartz and I also successfully carried a bill to incentivize the use of biomass in creating renewable energy. We know that removing and reusing biomass is critical to the health of our forests and to protecting our communities from catastrophic wildfires.
We worked on many bills to help get Coloradans back to work, including bills to support small businesses—the backbone of Colorado's economy—and provide training and education to the unemployed so they can get the jobs of tomorrow. Colorado now ranks fourth in the nation for job growth. Common-sense bills such as these will help accelerate this trend in making Colorado a top state in which to work.
A well-educated society means a healthy economy for the future. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to continue my work to ensure that Colorado remains a place to go to find the best and brightest.
State Rep. Millie Hamner's House District 61 includes Pitkin, Summit and Lake counties and parts of Delta and Gunnison counties. She is the chairwoman of the House Education Committee and also serves on the Business, Labor and Economic and Workforce Development and Appropriations committees.blog comments powered by Disqus